Lewis Roberts, St John's

Degree: PhD
Course: English
Supervisor: Dr Michael Hurley
Dissertation Title:

Loose Ends: The Poetic Line-Ending in the Long Nineteenth Century

Biographical Information

I grew up in West Yorkshire, and then read for a BA and MSt in English at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. At Magdalen I held a Demyship and the Senior Mackinnon Scholarship. I came to St John's in 2021 to begin my PhD, which is funded by the Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities. I am also a Cambridge Trust Scholar. I am currently the Jane Eliza Procter Fellow at Princeton University.

I have previously worked on the Oxford Traherne Project and with the Oxford Queer Studies Network. I have been lucky to have received substantial research grants from the British Association for Romantic Studies, the Rothermere American Institute, Magdalen College, and the Frank Hollick Fund. In September 2023, I was co-convenor of the conference 'Influence: 50 Years On', papers from which are to be published in a special issue of Textual Practice in Autumn 2024.

Outside of my PhD I play the saxophone and I am often involved in theatre. I am a proud governor of a primary school in Oxford, and I am an active political campaigner. 

I can be contacted at lpr20@cam.ac.uk.

Research Interests

While holding the Procter Fellowship at Princeton, I will be working on various projects concerned with the philosophical standing of literary texts, and the intersection of this work with historical poetics. I am interested in how philosophies of poetry particularly feed into or grow out of the historical place of poetry in schools, in scholarship, and in religion. I am also developing a project on the analysis of poetic form by way of computer programming.

My PhD studies the line-ending in poetry of the long nineteenth century (c.1770-1935), and aims to show how a constellation of different methods - including historical poetics, philosophical enquiry, manuscript studies, and close reading – can be brought to bear on poetry. I am interested in how this feature of poetic form can display or play with meaning, and how this might raise questions of the types of meaning that literary texts can obtain more generally. I am interested in building a reparative relationship between techniques of "Practical Criticism" and the theoretical side of the subject, including, for instance, Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory. All my research is in some way concerned with questions of what a literary text is, and what the value of literary texts might be.

My other major interest is in nineteenth-century Judaism. Jewish authors and artists flourished in the nineteenth century despite oppressive legal and social constraints, and I seek to restore this cultural movement to the prominence it deserves. I am particularly interested in histories of silence and non-representation in Jewish thought and aesthetics. Currently, this is centering on the Pre-Raphaelite, gay, Jewish author and artist Simeon Solomon.

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

"A source for Hopkins's term 'rove over'", Notes & Queries, forthcoming 2024

"Influence Revisited", Special Issue, ed. Lewis Roberts, Jacob Ridley, and Roddy Howland Jackson, Textual Practice, in progress

"Simeon Solomon's Contradictions", Cambridge Quarterly, 52:3 (September 2023), pp. 290–308.

Invited lectures

"Why is a poem like Christ?", Newbridge Hopkins Festival, July 2024

"Hopkins and Augustine", Monasterevin Hopkins Festival, July 2023

"Coleridge's Manuscript Thinking", Wordsworth Grasmere, December 2022